Her room. Darn that room. We waited and waited…and waited to set it up for her. When I was pregnant, we didn’t dare buy a crib or put a single nail in the wall. Just after she was born we were careful not to rush any single thing. But then…she continued to breathe, to live. We started to buy a few things here and there and casually considered, scratch that, hoped for needing crib. Too quickly we were jolted when she needed emergent heart surgery. As if the hammer was halfway back and something grabbed it, keeping it from thrashing forward and punching a nail in the wall. Once again, the room was on hold. Our little fighter recovered from surgery and started making progress toward going home. At that point we felt behind, we needed to play catch up to have a lovely place for our daughter’s homecoming…a crib was purchased.
It became everything I wanted for her. A room that represented her well. It captured her very essence. A 12’x12′ space created with such intention. On purpose.
We had every reason to finish it. And so we did.
Three weeks ago today, it was still needed. Three weeks ago tomorrow? The dream of this space for her was shattered. The hammer fell to the ground. As did we…while she flew.
I miss the hope that the room stood for.
Until this week, nothing in the room changed. It went untouched. Her crib remained set up. Her changing pad; clean. Her laundry basket; empty. This week, it became too hard. Too hard on my mama heart. I chose to accept that which I cannot change. Audrey will never come home to it. She doesn’t need it…she doesn’t need it.
Slowly we undid what once was done. The essence of the room remains the same. She fills the room with photos, keepsakes, handprints and more. It will always be her room. I’ll always refer to it as Audrey’s. It may serve a different purpose than originally intended, but it is undoubtedly and unapologetically hers. I feel closest to her there. Her changing table will become my desk. A place where I will do my design work. I place I will write like I am now. A place I will continue to be a sponge and read as much as possible to keep growing…to keep learning. A place of refuge. It gives new meaning to the interior design term: repurpose.
One evening this week, when we needed a break from packing up her things, our little family ventured to the pond just behind our home to put old bread to good use. Cooper wanted to feed the fish. As it turned out, Chris and I seemed to enjoy the act just as much. It was such a simple thing to do. But it is the type of activity we missed out on as the summer came and went, spending most of our time at the hospital. Never will we regret those hours, weeks and months. We certainly missed our oldest baby…a lot. Now, we have the opportunity to do these fun and simple things with him. I cannot speak for Chris, but I imagine we feel the same…as I threw out little pieces of stale carbs into a man-made hole filled with murky water, I remember thinking how nice it was not to be tricking these fish. We weren’t throwing this delicious food at them in hopes of eventually piercing their lip with a sharp hook only to throw them back in and do it again. Instead, we were simply feeding them. It felt so wonderful to be givers.
We’ve been overwhelmed with incredible acts by incredible people. (Dear Anonymous Giver [Insert toe tapping with arms crossed]…I’m still waiting for you to come forward [Insert half smirk].) It is uncomfortable to feel like a taker all of the time. I want to give back. We, along with our parents, are working on some remarkable ways that we will be able to give and all in her name. More on that in the coming days. While no humans benefitted from our hour of breaking bread, it seemed to lighten the load of bearing this recent role as Taker.
Later that same evening, while I continued folding tiny onesies, socks and headbands, seven tiny ladies came to the forefront of my thoughts. Peyton, McKenna, Jordan, Wrenley, Victoria, Sophie and Lucy are princesses who share the same birth year as Audrey. Seven baby girls I wanted to raise Audrey to know. Whose mommies I wanted to share ruffles and bows with. Peyton and McKenna are twin sisters who are truly miracles. They remind me of the power of prayer, they are living proof of it. Their lives are precious and they have fought long and hard to thrive as much as they are today. Jordan has been a light in my world this year. Watching my cousin blossom beautifully into motherhood has been nothing less than joyful. Jordan means so much to me and everyone in her family. Wren has filled my arms when Audrey could not. I look into her unimaginable eyes and my heart smiles. Victoria will forever be the little girl Audrey had slumber parties with while at OU Children’s. Victoria is still battling, at the moment I type these words she is in an ambulance headed back to the hospital for the second time in one week. Victoria has a friend with wings fighting with her. Sophie and Lucy are still cooking. They will be here very soon and I simply cannot wait. They both, along with Jordan, were there the very moment Audrey was born. They were also there the day she died. So many gifts in this one paragraph I can add to my list of 1,000. Some day I will share stories with each of these girls about Audrey and how much I wanted her to know them. These seven babies share something in common, they will always hold a part of my heart. As I watch them grow, I will picture the eighth one. What she would have been like. What she would have looked like.
Sometimes I find myself staring blankly. My body, soul and mind paralyzed with thoughts of her. Not in a sad or depressed way, but moments of profound clarity and deep love. A wise woman I know, a woman who taught me the tools I need to communicate well in this life, Thelma Box, recently shared with me that 40 years ago she lost her 6 1/2 month old son. 40 years. 4 decades. I’ve been wondering how long it will be until I get to see our Audrey again. Will it be 40 years? 50? It feels too long. But until I get to go live in that perfect place, I want to make the very most of whatever time I have here. I want to love Chris well. I want to regret nothing about being Cooper’s mama. I intend to be a purposeful friend and a kind stranger. I feel undeniably vulnerable right now. I am weak. But I’ve never felt closer to my God. I can’t do this alone, and I will not burden Chris and Cooper with the unattainable task of keeping me afloat. My arms may not be full of her but my heart is overflowing thanks to Him. I cannot wait for Heaven, but Heaven can wait.
Love & Hugs,